Why Technology?

The purpose of technology in the classroom is to enhance instruction.  Simple explanation, but what does it mean?  The word enhance means to magnify, intensify, raise to a higher degree.  That is the purpose of technology in today’s classrooms, to raise instruction to a higher degree.

A prime example of raising instruction to a higher degree can be found in a recent Reading and Social Studies unit 2nd graders at my school completed.  We combined Reading and Social Studies TEKS in a biography unit on famous Americans.  Our students checked out library books on the famous American of their choice.  Our 2nd graders love to go to the library and get new books.  They enjoy reading a variety of genres, including biographies.  We read lots of fun stories about famous Americans to our students.  We also use technology to raise our instruction to a higher degree.

We created YouTube playlists of famous Americans to supplement the reading material our students found in the library.  We visited websites to discover more about our famous Americans.

A study of George Washington included a virtual tour of Mt. Vernon.  NASA was a great place to discover photos and information about John Glenn.   Some of our friends discovered a new passion for all things Laura Ingalls Wilder.

How did watching videos on YouTube and visiting websites magnify our instruction?  Seeing the places we were reading and learning about and how they look in real life enhanced (raised to a higher level) our students interest in all that we were learning.

The payoff?  Our students are still searching and exploring people they find fascinating.  Jean Michel Basquiat, the subject of the 2017 Caldecott Medal winner, just a few pages in and my kiddos were chomping at the bit to go find his artwork.

The bigger payoff?  These 2nd graders have unlocked a whole new world of learning and discovery.  They know that NASA is a great place to find all sorts of information about space.  National Geographic Kids is a favorite site to learn about the animal kingdom.  DOGO News is the place to go for news lovers.  Science Bob is captivating for my scientists.

Learning to use technology in the classroom is teaching our students how to be in charge of their own learning.  Learning to use technology in the classroom teaches our 2nd graders how to delve into new worlds in a safe and responsible way.

We owe our students an education that opens new horizons in this global world.  We can provide our students with an education that enables them to navigate this global world to raise their learning and awareness to the highest degree imaginable.

Making Maps with iPad

Map Skills is one of my favorite topics to teach.  There are so many fun activities to teach students about maps, map keys, directions, and landforms.  You can make QR Codes and go on a Safari.  You can dress up as pirates and have a Treasure Hunt around your campus.  This year I used iPad maps to teach this skill to my students.  (Thanks Danielle for the idea.)

We started off exploring maps in the iPad app.  We learned how to find places we were interested in.  We learned how to toggle back and forth between map view and satellite view.


You toggle from Satellite view to Map view by tapping the i key on the iPad screen.  On my iPad it was in the bottom right corner.  On some of my students iPads it was on the top to the right.


We explored several places the students were interested in finding on the maps.





Then I turned them loose to explore on their own.  They found our town, their homes, our school, favorite parks, and many other relevant locations.

After the free exploration time, we paired up with partners.  I always use random pairing for this.  The partners decided together the kind of map they would create.  Their task was to make a map using both the map and satellite view on the iPad.  They could choose a location.  They were to include a Map Key and a Compass Rose.  Other requirements were individualized depending on their choice for map making.  We spent 3 days working on our maps.  (Not whole days, just part of each day.)





Along the way we learned about landforms, directions and the Compass Rose, and Map Keys.








These are some of the maps before they were finished.

The students learned how to navigate the iPad Maps app.  They learned important features of maps.  They learned how to make a map and what to include.  They are still exploring within the Maps app when they have Tech Time.  This was a successful lesson on map skills!







MakerSpace and Adobe Spark: Tell the Story

My class visited MakerSpace for the first time this year.  MakerSpace is new to my campus.  What is MakerSpace?



I used Adobe Spark to document the experience.  Adobe Spark is simply amazing.  You drag and drop media into pages, posts, and slides to create and document the stories you want to share with the world.

I am truly excited to see what my students will do with this technology.  It is simple to use.  There are themes to choose from.  You don’t have to do much yourself, except have your photos, and video ready to go.  And best of all, it’s free!  You can sign in with an Adobe account if you have one.  Or, you can sign in through a Google account.  My team and I already have some plans on using Adobe Spark with our kiddos.

Click Here to view the page I created about MakerSpace.  My video is included in the page.  You have to scroll down to see the whole page.



Have you used Adobe Spark?  Have an idea for Adobe Spark?  Please share in the comments.

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Getting the Word Out

Parent communication – the bane of a teacher’s existence!  Each year teachers strive to find a means to communicate with parents that will reach all, engage all, and inform all.  There are so many forms of social communication available.  How do you know which one to choose?  How do you even know if you should just choose one?  How do you decide if your communication with parents is effective?

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, email, Google drive, blog posts, e-newsletters, the list can go on and on.  I’ve used just about every form of communication a teacher can think of.  I usually determine what is best on a year to year basis.  Two years ago I used Instagram successfully.  Last year, the parents of my students (overall) were not interested in Instagram.  I made my own newsletters in Google and sent them via email.  I had more than one parent request they be sent in PDF form as not all parents had a Google account.

Creating a newsletter in Google isn’t difficult.  You can make your own template that can be re-used each week.  You can send these newsletters directly from your drive through a Google email account.  I did that, and also downloaded the newsletter in PDF form for those parents who requested a PDF format.  Here is a screenshot of my Google newsletter.  I made it using drawing tools.  It only took a few minutes to create my own template.

news examp 1

Creating a newsletter through Google or as a Word document and sending it to parents via email is a quick and easy way to keep parents updated.  It is basically a newsletter, conveying through written word, information parents need to know.

Instagram is another quick and easy way to stay in touch with parents and for parents to feel as if they are staying in touch with their child’s classroom.  Create your own Instagram account.  It’s free!  Take pictures of what’s happening in your classroom and post them!  You can even teach kids to take pictures and post.  (We’ll talk about teaching kids how to post soon!)  Parents who are Instagram users themselves generally love following and responding to your classroom.

This year I’m using Twitter and Smore to reach out to my student’s parents.  Twitter is much like Instagram;  take and post pictures with brief descriptions of what your kiddos are doing throughout the day.  You don’t have to post throughout the day, but any and all activities are usually twitter worthy.  Parents can follow you and see your tweets throughout the day as well.  These types of daily communication allow parents to feel more connected to their child’s life while at school.  Remembering to take those photos and tweet them can be a bit hectic at the beginning of the year.  Here is a screenshot of a tweet from a few weeks ago.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.35.30 PM

Smore is an e-news platform that allows you to create all sorts of flyers to keep your parents informed and connected to your classroom.  I’m using it as a newsletter each week.  I can post information about upcoming events, what we’ve been learning, and anything else I want parents to know about.  Photos can be added throughout the flyer.  This gives each flyer a personal and relevant touch.  Smore also lets you see how many viewers have accessed the flyer.  There is a free version and a paid version.  Here is a screenshot of the free version.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 9.38.33 PM

I’m also creating a flyer with important information about my classroom procedures.  I plan to keep these flyers available all year so parents can go back and access them if necessary.  I will be doing that by creating folders within my Smore account and saving each flyer instead of re-using each flyer.  Once a flyer is complete and ready to view, you just send the link to parents through email or a Learning Management System.

I enjoy taking photos of my students as they are learning and growing.  Keeping parents abreast of what is going on in our classroom is a treat and a privilege.

How do you communicate with parents?  Please share in the comments.  Don’t forget to click the Follow button in the bottom right hand corner to journey with me through classroom technology.

All Things PicCollage


I love PicCollage.  It is a versatile app that can be used in your classroom in multiple ways.  PicCollage is one of the first apps I teach my 2nd graders.  Every year about half of them are familiar with PicCollage and about half are not.  For this reason, I always start with a simple lesson on how to use PicCollage.

We have been learning about Science.  What is science?  What are scientists?  What do scientists do?  What tools do scientists use?  We are preparing our 2nd graders for becoming scientists and STEAM learners.  I used PicCollage to let my students showcase what they learned about science topics.

PicCollage is an app that allows users to take photos or upload photos from the web.  Students can add text, background, and stickers to their collages.  These are simple and easy to use.  There are also templates available.  I always begin in freestyle mode.  I show students how to use the web search feature to find images they are interested in using.  I show them how to add text and change the font.  I show them how to add background.  PicCollage is so user friendly that “how to” lessons take a very short period of time.  Students catch on quickly.  PicCollage becomes a favorite app for use in the iPad station.  Students will create collages for friends, family, birthdays, favorite sport teams, and all sorts of topics they find  interesting.  Very soon, I will be teaching them how to email these collages to the family members for whom they’ve been created.

I love PicCollage for the simple fact that it allows my students who avoid paper/pencil tasks like the plague, a quick and easy way to show me what they have learned.  Many children have fine motor skill issues that make completing paper/pencil tasks pure torture. Many children are so 21st century oriented that they would truly prefer to use technology to show what they know.  I have had students in the past that I truly didn’t see from their paper/pencil activities what they were capable of.  Those students often excel at iPad activities such as PicCollage.  I like to see higher level thinking in my students.  PicCollage allows kids to shine in ways that paper/pencil activities often do not.

Take a look at a few of our first PicCollage assignments.  This is a simple, easy way for kids to show what they have learned and for teachers to assess that learning.



As our skills in PicCollage grow, and we become more fluent digital learners, I will be updating and sharing the many ways we will be using PicCollage in my classroom.  Please share in the comments the ways you and your students apply PicCollage to 21st century learning.

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Making Friends with Teligami

The beginning of every school year brings new adventures, new opportunities, new beginnings, and new friends.  Elementary school teachers spend much time helping students renew old relationships and develop new ones.  We always read stories about friendship and search for new activities to create bonding experiences for our new students.

I love random pairing.  I also prefer to put my students into groups of 2 for partner activities.  I like 2 kids to a group for the simple reason that participation tends to be higher in smaller groups.  With groups of 3 or more it seems like someone is always sitting and observing instead of actively participating.

This week, our first week back in school, we spent a lot of time doing partner activities.  I use a random drawing process to partner my students.  There is always some shock at first.  There is usually some trepidation when someone ends up paired with someone they don’t really know.  Girls and boys who end up paired together usually give each other some strange looks.  By Friday, the kids understood how the process works and for the most part just grinned at their new partners.  I truly believe this random pairing goes a long way in forging new friendships within my classroom.

We undertook all of the usual first week activities for early elementary grade levels.  We read a series of Kevin Henkes books.  Chester’s Way, Wemberly Worried, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and of course, Chrysanthemum are just a few of the books we used this week.  He is my favorite author and the perfect author for a Back to School unit.  We played Getting to Know You games.  We prepared activity after activity for partners to come together, work together, and in the process, get to know each other.

On Friday, we had another random partner drawing.  This time we were drawing for friends to interview.  Each student had a brief interview sheet with some basic questions such as age, favorite food, favorite subject, etc.  The two partners then set about interviewing each other.  After the interview process was completed, we watched a YouTube video on how to create a Teligami.  We also watched a 33 second Teligami video that had been uploaded to YouTube.  All of this preparation took about 10 minutes.   A few of my students had used Teligami before, but most had not.

Their task was to create a Teligami introducing their new friend.  They could create an animated character for the introduction.  They could use a Teligami background or they could take a photo of our classroom for the background.  I didn’t let them download from the internet for background images.  We haven’t had that lesson yet.  They could record their voices introducing their friend or they could type the text and let the Teligami app generate a computer voice.  Everyone chose to make their own voice recording of course.

Teli 1

The kids had a great time interviewing friends and creating  Teligami characters.  I got to know my kiddos a little better by observing their tech skills and their creativity.

Teli 2

How do you use Teligami in your classroom?  Please comment to share your ideas.  If you like my blog please click on the follow button in the bottom right hand corner of the screen.










Guided Reading – It’s an “EDpuzzle”

I love Guided Reading time.  I teach reading in the morning, and I love this time to be with my students in small groups or even one on one.  I love the conversations we have.  I enjoy listening to my kiddos share what’s on their minds and what’s going on in their lives.  We alway spend a few precious moments in conversation.  This skill is as necessary as reading.

I love diving into a new book.  I’m always anxious to see how the students will react.  Have they read this book?  Are they familiar with this topic?  Are they interested in this topic?  What do they already know?  Oftentimes, my kids have quite a bit of background knowledge (schema) about one of the books we are reading.  Other times, they have none.  This past spring I discovered a tool to help build background and understanding before my 2nd graders ever come to the reading table – EDpuzzle.

EDpuzzle is a site that allows teachers to choose from hundreds of videos to engage student learning.  These videos come from the EDpuzzle site, YouTube, Khan Academy, and many more.

EDpuzzle videos resize

I love this site because I can cut or trim the video and only use certain parts or I can use the whole video.  I can insert questions that must be answered before students continue viewing the video.

Teachers can login using a Google account or an Edmodo account.  Students can be added easily from both Google Classroom and Edmodo.  I just login with my Google account.  I added my students from Google Classroom.  That was it, very simple to get started.  There is a great tour at the beginning to show you how to use the site.

Edp login new


EDpuzzle teach page

I like to add videos for the whole class as well as small groups.  Sometimes if my groups are reading similar books or books on the same topic I add videos for the whole class to view.  I can have my kids view the video at the Reading table before we begin.  I can also have them view the videos independently or in a small group while I’m meeting with others.

GR EDpuz

GR EDpuz 2

Adding this piece to my guided reading repertoire has increased student engagement and success at the reading table.  My students have grown in knowledge as the videos support the learning that is taking place in the reading group.  They can’t wait to see the new book that will go along with the videos they’ve watched.   I get excited when my kiddos get excited!

How do you use technology in your Guided Reading groups?  Please share in the comments section.

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